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Kazim Ali Kazim Ali is the author of two poetry books, The Far Mosque and The Fortieth Day, and a novel, Quinn’s Passage. His poems have been described as “musical” and “metaphysical,” bringing “discontinuity to the rapid shifts of postmodern disjunction.” Through a mixture of “painterly minimalism, open-field technique and Near Eastern traditions,” he revives “the mythological power in things.” A former member of the Cocoon Modern Dance Company, Ali has written extensively about poetry and teaches at Oberlin College and the University of Southern Maine. The Black Madonna at Chartres The virgin’s coat is wood polished black as obsidian stone. Mary, daughter of Anna, black as stone. Beaten the veil of Mary paper-thin. Who I am. Who I once was. Wrapped in the veil of the virgin. Age into stone. Beneath even this the crypt. Beneath even that the stone. 32 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 32 Journey The wind over open water: sharp howling. Guitar strings breaking. Solstice having passed days longer now. Beach aria. Synaptic dysfunction or syntactic exuberance. A small figure on the deck looking out across the blue-black. The years since then drunk and unforgiving. Wild roses crawl through the rough plank balcony. Drinking bitter coffee on the terrace. Weeks after that, alone in the vast public square. Watching the crowds board the night boat back to the mainland. Years later another journey you won’t take. Where will you now journey. For a day. Sounds of water. You will sometime soon say: I am coming home now. And not mean it. Kazim Ali 33 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 33 What in your life have you meant. A little inn perched in the hills above Calvi. The cloud-sheathed cold. Cold falling into the steep streets of the city. You are still there. Tissue-clouded moon swells above the blue-black. A terse, obscene, spattering of stars. A blue stone, fastened with a leather strap, cold against your chest. Closing your eyes at the beach, listening to the rocks being piled, softly clacking against one another. Another music for you. Will you fall? The wind presses against the portholes. They rattle slightly in the night. Rolling sound of rain pouring into the sea. Wreaking the sound against sleep. Waking with the light, the drunken year sinking. 34 Kazim Ali 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 34 The Year of Summer You came down from the mountains to the shore with your father’s voice ringing in your ears, saying over and over again the call to prayer. The stairs leading down to the water are cracked and marked by awakening. Awakening in the south the morning sun shines lemon yellow for eleven months, the leaves of the trees telling a book of eleven dreams. In this book, the sky is sometimes lavender. In this book are colors like you have never seen before. In this book is the taste of white peach. The blue-black sea turns milky under the noon-sun. In the twelfth dream your father is saying your name kindly and gently, whispering into each of your folded ears. In the year of summer you came south into a city of yellow and white, and what was told of this city was told in trees, and then in leaves, and then in light. Gallery You came to the desert, spirit-ridden illiterate, intending to starve The sun hand of the violin carving through space the endless landscape Acres of ochre, the dust-blue sky, or the stranger, casually surveying the room Kazim Ali 35 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 35 The young man beside you is peering carefully into “The Man Who Taught William Blake Painting In His Dreams” You are thinking: I am ready to be touched now, ready to be found He is thinking: How lost, how endless I feel this afternoon When will you know: all night: sounds Violet’s brief engines The violin’s empty stomach resonates Music is a scar unraveling itself in strings An army of hungry notes shiver down the four strings’ furrow You came to the desert intending to starve so starve 36 Kazim Ali 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 36 ...


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